Miners’ ‘E’ gets it all dialed in
Around the baseball diamond, Nevada Union senior Evelio Fleitas is simply known as “E.”
Though the reason for the nickname is obvious, “E” just as well could stand for effort, exuberance or the coming-of-age excellence the Miner catcher has displayed this season.
Fleitas’ two-run homer Tuesday versus Rio Americano not only proved to be the difference in the 3-1 win, it upped his team-high home run total to four. He also has a team-high 18 RBIs, in addition to a .329 batting average and a tie for the team lead with eight doubles this season.
But that is just his impact with the stick. Behind the plate, Fleitas calls the games for his pitchers, and his strong arm has proven to be a terror for opponents who are used to stealing bases.
“He has been a complete ballplayer for us,” NU baseball coach Ted White said. “He has 27 assists as a catcher this year, and has thrown out his share of base runners, too. Not too many teams even try to run on him.”
Fleitas was one of two Miners and one of two catchers selected to represent the North team for the Sacramento-area Optimist All-Star game, to be played June 15.
“Being selected was the greatest feeling,” Fleitas said. “It was kind of funny, because when (White) called Will (Lindsey) and I into the press box to tell us of being selected, we thought he was going to talk to us about running some laps.”
Despite solid numbers and an impact performance this season, Fleitas went through a five-game hitting slump at the beginning of the season. He simply couldn’t buy a hit.
On a rainy day, however, Fleitas’ luck would change. White took the Miners to a warehouse that had been converted into a mini-baseball facility, complete with AstroTurf and top-of-the-line pitching machine.
Once there, Fleitas began to work with Gary Alcombrack, owner of Liberty Motors and the man who had converted the facility for baseball. Alcombrack, who was a catcher in his playing days in college, began to work with Fleitas on the mechanics of his swing, from stance to the path of his swing, as well as the his mental approach to the game.
“He had to get his balance straightened out, and had to learn how to get his hands and bat to the plane of the ball,” Alcombrack said. “It takes a while to learn it, and the (batting) average usually goes down for a while, but now he just drives the ball out of the field.”
It did not take long for Fleitas to see the dividends. In his first game after visiting Alcombrack’s batting cage, Fleitas hit a home run versus Granite Bay, dramatically ending the hitting slump.
“I went through the same thing last year,” Fleitas said. “I wasn’t too confident with my swing, and wasn’t seeing the ball very well, but now I can tell I hit the ball more solidly.”
Fleitas also hit a game-winning home run – this one a 3-RBI job – to key NU’s 4-3 home win over Del Campo, who at the time was the top-rated team in the Sacramento area.
“He has been our clutch guy this season,” White said. “He is a real strong guy who works hard in the weight room. And he has done a nice job working with out pitching staff, especially one that is so young.”
Not only had the tutelage and extra practice time been of benefit to Fleitas this season, it has opened up possibilities for playing baseball next year as well.
“When I heard that I could practice (at the converted warehouse) as much as I wanted to, I jumped on it,” Fleitas said. “(Alcombrack) has helped me not only with my swing and catching, but is trying to help me find a college baseball team.”
Alcombrack is wholly impressed with Fleitas’ work ethic, recalling a recent night when the young catcher and Alcombrack’s son Robby each took roughly 800 practice cuts.
“Do you have any idea how hard it is to swing a bat that many times?” Alcombrack rhetorically asked. “The thing is, Evelio is just starting to enjoy the success he is going to have as he gets better and better. I tell you, he is on the fast track to being a good hitting catcher that will make some small college very happy.”
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